Large numbers of social welfare "tourists," including Irish nationals who have been claiming welfare in Ireland while traveling overseas to work, are being held at airports. On average, one 'welfare tourist' is being detected every four days at Ireland's three main airports.

Since June 2012, a Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of social welfare inspectors, working with police, have been screening departures and arrivals for suspected welfare breaches by cross-referencing passenger information with data on social welfare claimant lists, the Irish Independent reports.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton recently hailed the special taskforce initiative at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports as a tremendous success.

In a 17-month period, officials have made 122 detections, 72 at Dublin Airport and 50 between Cork and Shannon airports. The detections involve both Irish and non-Irish nationals.

A total of 45 cases currently remain under investigation. Five cases have been successfully prosecuted, with two more remaining before the courts.

The crackdown has already saved the Irish treasury an estimated €4m ($5m).

The SIU has also rolled out special facial recognition software that, with the new public service card, has dramatically increased the ability of the officials to detect identity fraud.